This Week’s episode was a discussion about pre-planning funerals with my guest, Leo Dube, Jr., Advance Planning Director and an integral, highly trusted member of the Silva-Faria team. He brings to the table a wealth of knowledge in the world of pre-planning with the integrity and standard of service that we at Silva-Faria Funeral Homes pride ourselves in.
Being on the radio for a year already, you’d think little would surprise me, but this show certainly did. Twice during the show, I had callers call-in and literally take the words right out of my mouth. Telepathy must have been in the air! My first caller, just as I had finished announcing the show and was about to introduce my guest and the topic of pre-planning, bam! I get a caller. His question was about pre-planning and our entire first segment was very similar to what the first few minutes of an actual pre-arrangement meeting would be like.
For the rest of the show, Leo and I had some great discussions about the benefits, misconceptions, flexibilities and even superstitions about setting up pre-arrangements. What it really all comes down to is a conversation.
Most people make the appointment or think about pre-arranging for two reasons: to lift the burden (financially and emotionally) off of their family; To spend down or protect assets as they are facing impending transition into assisted living/nursing home/etc. and are being told this is something they should do. Both are great reasons and one thing we highlighted in our talk is that the family should be involved in one way or another.
Setting up a funeral with a family member present is ideal because they will understand the whole process, how everything works and also know all of your wishes firsthand. If that is not possible, it is integral that a family member be aware that plans are being made. As a director, I’ve seen it too many times, where a family is calling all over the area trying to find the funeral home their loved one made plans with because their loved one talked about their funeral being “all set” but never shared where. Sometimes it’s because the person had Dementia and didn’t keep the paperwork. Sometime’s it’s because the information is just somewhere nobody can find. You just never know. My point is, to truly relieve a burden from your family, they need to know that these plans are being made.
Another aspect that comes from including family is the gift of meaningfulness. The things that can come from these conversations during pre-arrangements are like seeds planted in your family’s minds. They get time to think with you about how they’d like to honor you - and how you'd like to be honored. Personal traits, hobbies and interests come up in these conversations that can spark meaningful ways the family can add to the memorialization. Some of this creativeness simply wouldn’t come to fruit within having just a few days to handle the planning of a funeral in the overwhelming midst of grief.
Leo also mentioned some great reference articles about some financial benefits of pre-planning your funeral. There are two free reports he mentioned on the show:
- Stop Medicaid and the IRS from Inheriting Your Savings NOW! Irrevocable Funeral Trust Laws Give Seniors more Tax-Free Options
- What is my Bank CD Costing Me?
To request either of these reports in a full .pdf version, simply email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My second telepathic caller of the day happened to call just as I was going to remind my listeners about my weekly office hours at our Somerset location, 84 County St., Somerset, MA 02726, every Tuesday from 1-3pm. He inquired about the hours and brought up that he is seeking records on the Our Lady of Light Cemetery. This small cemetery was founded by my great great grandfather, Mariano J. Silva. It was eventually deeded over to Notre Dame Cemetery. To hear more on this history, we can all hopefully entice my grandfather, the Honorable Milton R. Silva to come back on the show. If you missed the two shows he came on previously, you can find the podcasts/summaries here on the blogposts: Honorable Mention and The Final Journey
There were two calls that I feel require further response. Since the creation of this show, it has been extensively discussed and decided upon that I will not be quoting prices. Not mine nor any other funeral home’s. I will stay true to this policy and have many reasons for it. My reasons come down to ethics, integrity, education and relationships.
Yes, this is a show that advertises my family’s funeral home, but we are not auctioneers. Our business is based in professionalism, service, integrity and the relationships we build with our families that entrust us with the care of their loved ones during the hardest times of their lives. As funeral directors, we all, each and every one of us, swear an oath to not speak ill of each other and respect each other’s businesses. I take that to heart.
My mission on this show is to educate about various topics related to the funeral industry, death, dying, grief and memorialization. I seek to represent the industry as a whole and in doing so, respect the industry as a whole.
That being said, I understand today’s consumer. I am today’s consumer. My entire fall season was spent pitting Toys R Us against Amazon and Target for price match deals on my children’s Christmas list. But I also understand there is a difference between retail goods that you can compare “apples to apples” and business that provide services, merchandise, planning and in essence - human work, quality work. There’s a big difference.
You simply can’t group product retailers with quality service providers like wedding planners, funeral directors, photographers, lawyers, interior designers even auto mechanics. They all require a specific need. That need is to know YOUR specific needs before they can estimate what service is right for you before price can even be thought of. To the consumers benefit, and this is something I think gets forgotten about, is that in the process of sharing these needs and the professional presenting their service, is where you, the consumer get to feel if this person and these services presented are the right fit for you. THIS is the start of the all important relationship.
As a funeral director, this is so important to us and should be equally important to the families we serve. There has to be trust and a connection for planning something so intimate. I have yet, in ten years, to have NOT felt close to a family that I have served and the dynamic works both ways.
Getting back to my oath, it would be unethical and against my integrity to publicly speak about my prices, because it would open the door to people calling to have me speak to other funeral home’s prices. This would be against my ethics. I would feel like I am on an auction block and that is not what I have created this show to do. I’d be more than happy to discuss my prices on the phone, in my office or privately at a home of a client, but never on the air.
You see, I actually respect all funeral homes and understand why pricing is so different and without mentioning actual prices, I’d love to take the chance now to educate you on why. Funeral homes are run in so many ways. Some are family run, some are franchised, but it goes far beyond that. Pricing depends on many factors of operating expense. The basis of this business is that we have to be prepared for the inevitable - death. This means paying staff full time to be ready and on-call 24/7, 365 days a year, ready at a moments notice for when a call comes in. Staff that needs to be paid, even if that call never comes. Equipment, facilities, cars, merchandise, trade work. All of these things add to overall operating expense. I haven’t even gotten to the actual work that goes into pulling everything together when a funeral happens. Every funeral home has different ways of managing these elements. Some are able to afford all of the items and staff in house, some out-source trade work. All of these aspects and more compounded with regional trends and costs of living are merely a few elements of why funeral homes have various justified reasons for different prices on their services and merchandise. It is simply not an “apples to apples” comparison.
It is always your right as a consumer to “price shop” but don’t do yourselves the disservice of merely looking for numbers. Seek the prices along with the quality of the relationship you can gain even from a phone call. You will find the right funeral home that way, I assure you. My show will gladly help you understand the general workings of this industry but I will never sacrifice my integrity, ethics and respect for any funeral home by becoming an auctioneer.
On a lighter note, I’d like to end with a wonderful visit I had this week from my favorite pre-arrangement and (past guest on the show) to date, Leo Jarvais, the man who made his own casket and plans to have it standing upright in the wake room “Cowboy Saloon” style. He dropped by my office this week to drop off pictures from his “test run” for me to share with my listeners and readers. So here he is, pink booty slippers and all… If you missed his show click here for the Cowboy Funeral blog post.
The Silva Lining is thankful for our wonderful sponsor:
St. Anthony of Padua Credit Union - We are proud to be sponsored by such an incredible bank, that in an age of conglomerate banks treating people like numbers, maintains a relationship with its members based on trust, friendly service and loyalty. With competitive rates for savings accounts and various loans, St. Anthony of Padua can handle all of your financial needs. Convenient online banking and more information at www.stanthonyofpaduafcu.com